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THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING:  In the Light, In the Love

"In the Light" features the Array Mbira, the native flute and vocals. But its
most compelling story revolves around the Penta F Swiss Hang  which came
to me in a wonderfully mysterious way.

The Hang is a light weight, laptop steel sphere  created and offered by
Felix Rohner and Sabina Sharer of PanArt in Bern, Switzerland since the year
2000.  It is perhaps the newest and most amazing acoustic instrument of
the last hundred years. While the makers insist it is not a drum but rather a
sound sculpture, it has come to be known affectionately by many
as the UFO Drum.

A fellow hang player exploits this image at some of his performances by pulling
out of the bottom of his Hang a small, stuffed ET. 

The entherial, melodic percussion of the Hang has enchanted people all over the world.  So much so that the Hang has become almost impossible to get. But before this happened I discovered someone selling one on a small Yahoo Groups Forum set up by Hang devotees.

He had bought it from PanArt and had played it for about a year, until his life became too complicated to spend time with it any longer.  So it languished in a dark closet until he offered it for sale for $1000, twice the amount he had paid.

I knew this Hang was meant for me. I felt it in my vibrating bones.  As I listened to a sound clip of the Penta F, I heard it calling to me, "I am yours."  So before I had a clue as to where the money would come from, I commited to buy it.

I heard a voice in my head saying, "Do what you love and the money will follow."

"But, of course, I needed the Penta F Hang to do what I loved.  So I put off making the purchase for two days. On the third day I went to the post office to mail a package. As I was leaving  I saw a small, white envelope at my feet. I picked it up. I opened it. Ten crisp hundred dollar bills stared back at me -- a thousand dollars.

I left my name and phone number with a postal clerk, explaining, "I found something of great value that was lost by one of your patrons."

No one ever phoned. One consciousness was ready to give. The other was ready to receive.

"In the Light, in the Love" is a song of the universe unfolding its infinite abundance.

~ Saggio
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING:  Hidden Splendor

The "Hiddden Splendor" of track 8 originated in a Unity church in
Mesa, AZ where my wife Barbara and I were invited to share our
sounds in an opening ceremony for the Buddhist Relic Tour.
The song's title derives from a Robert Browning poem:

"There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness...
opening out a way where the imprisoned splendor escapes."

At the church we offered an improvisation with Barbara on the
Angel Wing Freenote and me on the the Swiss Hang Sound Sculpture
(pronounced hung). The Angel Wing was created by Richard Cooke
of Colorado. The one in "Hidden Splendor" is a 9 note instrument
tuned in a beautiful Dm Ake Bono Japanese scale. While it looks similar to a xylophone, its sound is very
different. Listen carefully and you will fall under the spell of ethereal chimes.

The Angel Wing and the Hang fell instantly in love with one another. The Hang was created ten years ago by Felix Rhoner and Sabina Sharer of PanArt in Bern, Switzerland. This is one of the newest  instruments on the planet and certainly one of the most difficult to obtain. 

The Hang I am playing in this song is a 2nd generation Dm. While the Hang is tapped upon with the fingers, thumbs and hands, Felix and Sabina insist it is not a drum. And those who play it like one soon find themselves with a detuned instrument.

Felix once told me that the virtuosity is in the Hang rather than the player. It was his way of saying this is a new sound on the planet which demands that a player learn to listen and then follow where the sound leads. It was during this 2nd generation phase of the Hang's evolution that the Hangmakers were guided to realize that they were making a personal transformation tool rather than a standard musical instrument.

The current generation of the Hang is called the Free Integral Hang and is being made available first and foremost to those seeking spiritual growth. Whereas the earlier hangs were tuned to the standard A440, the FIH is tuned only by ear and intuition and abandons traditional musical parameters.

After we concluded our musical interlude at the church, two lines formed and the Buddhist monks began blessing those who kneeled at the altar. When my turn came, I kneeled. The young monk's eyes locked on mine.

He smiled widely, leaned toward me and whispered, "Thank you for the beautiful music." I smiled back at him and nodded.

In the recording studio the song leaped into a new dimension under the monk's blessing, the artful touch of Boyd Sibley's keyboard, and the strains of a high D native flute.

And so we offer you this song now where our truth abides in fullness, opening out a way where the
imprisoned splendor may escape.

~Saggio
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING:  Gentle Being Swaying

The GENTLE BEING title vibrates on at least two levels. There is the gentle being of the delicate dandelion pictured on the album cover. And there is the gentle being of all Life as the Supreme Reality.

I almost titled this song "Father and Son are One." My first born son, Rick,
also fell in love with the Swiss made Hang Sound Sculpture from which this
sweet melody emerged. He is playing the 2nd generation Hang in D, and I
am playing the 1st generation Hang in Penta F. This is a one-take improvi-
sation in real time. We are in a zone together with the melodic steel and
the moment and each other. The sound is enveloping us, swirling about us
with a life of its own. I play off his sound. He plays off mine. And suddenly
we are lost in an infinite exchange of energy and we do not know where
one of us ends and the other begins. We swim in the dance of sound
together, our minds melded into one being, one gentle being.

Time stands still and when we return to the reality of Boyd Sibly's recording studio 7300 feet in the mountains of Alto, NM, we are still dazed from our journey beyond words and thoughts. We listen to the song played back again through our headsets and we are launched beyond space and time again. We do not want this sweet intoxication to end. The song concludes once more and there is a wall of silence and deep breathing. My son breaks the silence with, "Dad, I hear your voice in this song, I really hear your voice."

I look at Rick, puzzled.

Boyd sets another track going and signals me. I am lost in the song again,
sucked into its beautiful black hole of nothingness and allness. There is
singing happening. There are words. It is my voice I hear, but I hear it as
if I were someone else listening. And the words are soft and few, like the
calming arm of a mother around a child. I am so overcome with emotion
that for a brief moment the words take a holiday. 

It is all so wonderfully magical that I do not want to come back, a musical
out-of-body experience. 

"Gentle Being Swaying" is born. My son and I are linked forever in a song; a song that we release like a bird from a cage to fly across our tiny planet out into the universe and back again.

~Saggio
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING:  Mandinka Magic

The West African kora is an amazing instrument that came into my life
through my friend David Ranney. Track 4 features a variety of flutes
and a Mandinka Magic Kora made by Jeff Bodony of Days Creek, Oregon.

I was watching a poetry program on Public TV. A beautiful African man
was playing his kora and reciting his poem. I was mesmerized by the
sound of the rich polyrythms of the 21-string kora.

I googled "African kora" and up popped the name of a man from Boston
who travelled to Africa every year and brought back koras for sale.
He had just sold one to a man in Ahwatukee, AZ --David Ranney. I met
David shortly after, and he played his kora for me while I accompanied
him on my flute. In that moment David and I wedded two tribal sounds
from two different cultures, and we forged a loving friendship.     
Jeff Bodony had gone to Africa to  study the
construction of African instruments. When he
came home he applied what he had learned
from the African masters in Mali, adding his
American ingenuity to the mix. The result was
a brand new species of kora  that sang louder
and richer than its West African cousin and
could be easily tuned. 

I contacted Jeff and he agreed to make a custom kora for me. I brought my kora to Cottonwood, AZ where David Rentz lives. David is a gifted artist and musician. He kept the kora with him for several days and adorned it with his unique and beautiful dot art.

And so this track, "Mandinka Magic," holds the energy and spirit of the 3 artists I have already told you about. It also holds my energy and spirit. It holds the spirit of my good friend, Pat Haran, whose flutes are singing a duet with the kora. It honors the sound of the low Irish whistle too, made by Colon Goldie of England. (I traded Colin a low D native flute for his handmade low F Irish whistle.)

A beautiful African man reciting a poem and playing a kora on Public TV gave me the gift of this song. His spirit set it all in motion. Listen closely with your heart and you will hear him in this song too.

This is truly mandinka magic. 

~Saggio
Saggio's Journey
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING: Beloved

Every being is a story, a parable, a metaphor. Songs are beings too and they have stories as well. 

This is the story of track 1 on the GENTLE BEING CD.

Track 1 is called "Beloved" but it is also called "David's Song."  David was a dear friend of mine who died an untimely death a couple of years ago. He was a brilliant, handsome man of 50 who made his living as a computer consultant, but his passion was music: classical guitar, mandolin, kora. It was David who introduced me to the beautiful West African kora.

David had an open invitation to show up at any of my gigs and improvise with me, and he did this many times. We had talked often about making a CD together, but he was very busy at work and it never happened. 

Unable to withstand his severe depression, David took his own life. He left a note apologizing for any pain he may have caused for those who knew and loved him. And he instructed his relatives that he was leaving all his recording studio gear to me.

Among the gear was an RV3 Loop Station. I plugged it in one day and stepped on the "play" pedal. David was playing again. The beautiful, lilting strains of classical guitar and kora filled the room and my heart. I picked up an Em Cedar flute and joined in with him. David had returned the favor. He was now inviting me to accompany him, and so I did. 

I played his loop over and over again and found myself nearly dumbstruck by the lyrics coming out of my mouth: "I'll come back to you. You will wait for me."

I soon realized that David wanted to be on my GENTLE BEING CD. He wanted to make a song for all the lovers of the world who were crushed under the weight of separation. I realized too that The Beloved was that which was appearing as all of us, anchored in the body, stuck in the mind, feeling a separation that was imagined, not real. 

So David is once again improvising with me, and although it is not a whole CD, it is a wondrous song of love and separation and reunification that beckons us to waken to the joy of Life...even in the midst of death.

Death? What death? Being always abounds, says David, music is always calling. This is David's Song.

~Saggio
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING:  Bliss Revisited

Track 2 on the "Gentle Being" CD was born in the studio at our mountain cabin near Flagstaff, AZ.
But it did not come through until I heard the enthralling strains of a very special kalimba made by Thomas Bothe of 2B Kalimbas in Germany. 

Every kalimba that Bothe makes has its own unique tuning that comes to him intuitively. The kalimba that ushered in "Bliss" wanted to play with two Pat Haran flutes:  a late model contra bass Eb and a first generation Bb bass. A high Apache Spirit flute in rivercane made by Nev Autrey also joined the mix.

The kalimba originated in Africa and sings the polyrhythms of this ancient continent. I captured the sweet strains of the 2B kalimba on my loop station and played it back. The Pat Haran Eb practically jumped into my hands to offer its deep voice. The Bb summoned a long lost, blissful melody. The Apache Spirit flute blessed the song with a high angelic voice.

No writing notes down on paper, no analytical maneuverings, no judgment calls. Just a wondrous alchemy of sound filling space and time according to its own plan.

Boyd Sibley, my recording engineer, contributed the elegant sounds of the violin in the opening phrases. "Bliss" is the shortest but perhaps the most powerful song on the album. I return to it often and lose myself within it. 

Who can even begin to understand the enchantment of an alchemy of sound...the wizardry of music?

~Saggio












She handed me the jar. There was no intent in me to demonstrate dominance. There was just only this inner knowing that no effort would be needed to persuade the jar to open. So I cradled the jar in my right hand and caressed the lid with my left hand, fingers barely touching. It was as if the jar surrendered under my touch. It wasn't so much my hand turning, but the lid under it turning itself. It was stunning to feel this jar loosening its grip and submitting to me.

The lid rotated effortlessly. And there it was, in my hand. Barbara winced at me and said, "I loosened it with all my banging."

That sounded reasonable to me. But sometimes reason hides the power of our higher being. This lesson of a return to gentleness has repeated itself many times over the past couple of years. I began to realize that all the instruments I played and all the songs that poured through me were the very same thing -- a return to gentleness.

The flute and the hang and the kora were all gentle beings that were calling me to join them in gentleness.

In future newsletters I will share the stories of all the songs on GENTLE BEING. A song is a living thing and has its own story.
  
~Saggio
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING traces back to a jar of tomato sauce.

My wife, Barbara, was trying to open it. It would not budge.
She ran it under hot water, she beat on the edges of the tin top with a can opener, threatening to smash through the glass jar beneath. She broke out the rubber hang grip and attacked the lid with such ferocity that her face turned red.
Finally she said in frustration, "I give up!"
THE STORY OF GENTLE BEING:  I Dreamed a Dream

"All that I see or seem is but a dream within a dream."

These words came to me one day as I was playing my Baby Moyo
drum. The Baby Moyo is a steel tongue drum constructed from a
small propane tank. It can be played with hands or mallets. I am
using very soft mallets for this song. The tones are wistful, even
ephemeral, and they excite a dream state in the player.

Throughout the ages many spiritual teachers have taught that
this world is a dream and we are dream characters. They tell us
that we are not in the world, the world is in us. They tell us that
matter unfolds from mind. 

Birth is entering the dream. Death is exiting it. They say death is the realization that no one was ever there. Also, these teachers insist that they have realized that we are not the body, that we are free -- boundless and without limits.They proclaim that our sense of a personal self is but a mental projection, and that separation from god, self and other is an illusion.

The first flute heard in this song is a small 4 hole Apache Spirit cedar flute made by Nev Autrey. It is a ceremonial flute. It is said that when the player surrenders to the sound he is transported to the spiritual realms. Here he is one with all life. Here the realization unfolds that there is but One Life, the Life of God, Living us all. 

And here the knowing arises that this is not your dream or my dream.

IT is The Beloved's dream, the Infinite playing hide and seek in the finite. And here the knowing arises that both good  humanhood and bad humanhood are equally only appearances.  

The teaching tells us that it is all The Beloved appearing as that which is and is not, that all that we are seeking we are, that the duality and separation that our senses testify to are not real but imagined.

I dreamed a dream. I dreamed a song. But was it really me?  Perhaps I am the flute and the Beloved is playing me?

However long my life may seem, it is but a moment in a dream.

~ Saggio         
Check back each month for more Gentle Being stories.